OKCPS Considering Closing Schools To Save Money

Monday, March 20th 2017, 1:44 pm

Oklahoma City Public Schools is considering closing more schools as a way to save money. Board members will be discussing the issue at Monday night’s board meeting. 

Late Monday afternoon the district released the list of five schools up for consolidation, saying they estimate the district will save about $250,000 for every school they close. The district says Edgemere Elementary, FD Moon Academy, Gatewood Elementary, Green Pastures Elementary and Johnson Elementary are on the list of possible closures. In addition, Northeast Academy will close and reopen as a middle school. 

Four of the six schools are on the Northeast side of the city. That’s also where Ward 7 City Councilman John Pettis says the district closed at least 10 schools since the mid-1970s.

Keia Tease used to go to Creston Hills Elementary, which was shut down years ago.

“We were the Tigers, so it was pretty awesome,” she recalled.

But now Tease lives across the street and frequently has to call the police about people breaking in.

“We heard music playing from inside the school and them getting down into that broiler room.”

That's exactly the problem, according to Pettis. He says the city has had to issue code violations to the former school that’s the site of frequent problems.

“Anytime a school closes in a neighborhood, that causes a blight in that particular neighborhood," Pettis told News 9.

And now he fears more of the same in the future.

“The district has to be a good community partner when it decides to close the school down,” Pettis said.

That’s what school board member Bob Hammack says the district intends to do this time. He says the board plans to re-purpose the buildings into something helpful for the community.

“We will absolutely not close the building and leave it to sit derelict,” Hammack said. “That’s not going to happen.”

But Hammack says the closings are necessary in light of state budget cuts.

“This is a really good opportunity to consolidate schools that quite frankly don’t have enough students.”

Hammack says one school has eight 6th graders.

“This could have been and should have been done 10 years ago, but frankly the staff and leadership wasn't there to make it happen.”

Hammack says there will be a series of meetings where members of the community can weigh in before the board votes.